*Report by Vishnu Ravi Shankar & Gopalakrishnan R. Images by Dulon Kharsati.
Bambolim, 10th March 2016: Kerala women have started their 2016 Federation Cup basketball campaign on an assertive note, with a comfortable victory over Chhattisgarh. This match was preceded by Indian Overseas Bank (IOB), Chennai cruising to their second straight win, this time over North Western Railway, Rajasthan.
Kerala women continued where they left off against Chhattisgarh in the Senior National Basketball Championship a couple of months ago. Leading from start to finish, Kerala, especially in the first half, outscored their opponents 26-8 and 19-8 to lead by 29 points at halftime. Kerala’s international centre Stephy Nixon proved to be rival centre Poonam Chaturvedi’s jinx yet again, as she restricted Chaturvedi’s efficiency in the paint. Nixon would end the game with a double double of 19 points and 10 rebounds. But her true value came on the defensive end, as she curtailed Chaturvedi, who finished with 26 points, a below par performance by her standards. Fellow international Jeena PS showed her consistency, turning in a 22 point 8 rebound performance. Chhattisgarh Coach Rajesh Patel will need to rethink his strategy of over-relying on his towering 6ft 9 inch centre and start trusting his bench strength. Disturbingly, only 6 players took to the floor, with four starters Riya Verma, Sangeeta Das and Sharanjeet Kaur playing the full 40-minute quota.
Earlier in the afternoon, IOB Chennai took on North-western Railways, Jaipur (NWR) in a Group B men’s clash. Both teams entered this game yet to be defeated after winning their opening games yesterday. This match followed the pattern of one-sided affairs through the day with IOB dominating from start to finish. IOB’s frontcourt proved too strong for NWR, who struggled to contain IOB’s big men in the paint. Veteran centre Vineeth Mathew had 10 points in the game while forward Abhilekh Paul scored a team-high 15 points. IOB outscored NWR 48 to 17 in the first half and cruised through the rest of the game. Their bench played most of the second half and contributed 50% of the team’s scoring with 35 points. Former India international Pratham Singh had 14 points for IOB on 4 of 6 shooting. IOB’s big men pulled down 46 rebounds compared to NWR’s 31, which also led to 19 points off second chance opportunities. IOB went up 2-0 in the tournament with the 70-47 victory and have almost sealed a semifinal berth.
Coming off of tight losses yesterday, Bhiwani Club, Haryana and Ludhiana Basketball Academy (LBA) were both looking to prove their mettle at the Federation Cup stage today in their second game. A mini-controversy delayed the beginning of the contest stemming out of LBA’s complaint regarding the Bhiwani Club’s players from the Air Force – Joginder Singh, Narender Grewal and Ashutosh Rai. LBA claimed they were ineligible to play for a Haryana-based club as they officially belonged to the Air Force Club affiliated to the Delhi Basketball Association. The technical commission decided to disqualify the three players for the rest of the tournament. Starting with Himanshu Sharma at point guard and forward Pardeep Chauhan, Bhiwani Club seemed more than capable of handling the young Ludhiana Basketball Academy team. LBA’s defenders failed to control the Himanshu’s penetration, leading to him either finishing at the basket or creating for his teammates. Bhiwani Club also had 21 offensive rebounds in the game leading to 18 second chance points. Forward Pardeep used his length and experience over LBA’s young big men in the paint to score 22 points. After conceding a 25-12 lead in the first quarter, LBA found it difficult to come back in the game. Bhiwani Club continued to build their lead, with their role players stepping up and knocking down shots. Naveen had an efficient 19 points for Bhiwani, which included 5 triples. For LBA, Arshpreet Bhullar kept firing away ending up with 30 points in the match, but he had little support from his teammates. Bhiwani picked up their first win (94-72) handing LBA their second loss of the tournament.
Earlier in the Day
The second day of the 30th Federation Cup 2016 began with the women’s semifinalists from the senior nationals, Telangana and Delhi, taking on each other. Delhi was without the services of the “Singh Sisters” and sported a young lineup this tournament. After a disappointing close loss yesterday, Telangana were looking to bounce back against the Delhi team. Telangana came out with intent, getting off to a quick first quarter start 22 to 8. They used size to their advantage overpowering Delhi in the paint and outrebounding them 57 to 37. Telangana scored 30 of their points from the inside, led by R. Ramya’s 11 points. The sizeable lead allowed Telangana to use their bench, as eight players got onto the scoreboard. P. Divya was consistent again with 9 points for Telangana. The inexperienced Delhi side fell to a 56-30 loss in their Group B opening game, while Telangana opened its account with their first win.
The first men’s game of Day 2 was also a one-sided affair between Army Red and Kerala Police. Playing their opening game, Army used multiple offensive weapons to dominate Kerala. After establishing a 20-point lead in the first half, Army cruised through the rest of the game to register a 76-43 victory. Army had contributions from several players who were also on the Services team that won the senior nationals. Mayur Bhat led all scorers with 16 points while Jairam Jat had a double-double for the Army with 15 points and 13 rebounds. Manu Thomas was the Army’s enforcer in the paint, protecting the rim with 3 blocks and also pulling down 10 rebounds. Army also had 12 points coming from their bench, while Kerala had zero bench contribution in the game. This marks Kerala Police’s second loss in the tournament, leaving them on the verge of being knocked out.
After a thrilling victory against Telangana yesterday, the South-east Central Railways, Bilaspur (SECR) were involved in another exciting game today against Karnataka. To the surprise of most people, Karnataka shook off a sluggish start to dominate the second and third quarters and build a double-digit lead. Karnataka’s point guard from the senior nationals, Supriya MS knocked down five 3 pointers on her way to 22 points. Youngster Priyanka also played well for Karnataka finishing at the basket en route to her 16 points. For SECR, Seema Singh had another high-scoring game, using her body to control the paint. She, along with Bharti Netam, helped SECR fight their way back into the game in the fourth quarter and take it to overtime. In the overtime period, SECR outscored a fatigued Karnataka team 14 to 7 to close out the game with a 84-77 victory. Seema Singh had a game-high 35 points, while Bharti Netam finished with 26 points.
Later in the evening, the Goan women and men teams lost to Maharashtra and Army Red respectively. Goan women found the going tough against a fast paced Maharashtra team which kept leaking away for the break. Athletic point guard Shaheen Rebelo was the lone bright spot for Goa, scoring 21 of her team’s 32 points. For Maharashtra, Shruti Menon scored 21 points in just 20 minutes which contributed in her team increasing its lead through each quarter. The final score read 75-32 in favour of Maharashtra.
The final match of the day was between Don Bosco Oratory (DBO), Goa men and Army Red. Army was playing its second game of the day, but the side looked keen and fresh taking on the home side. Don Bosco’s Aaron Ferns, arguably one of the shortest players in the competition, showed his heart of steel, willing himself to 21 points that included some tough floaters in the paint. Shawn Soares had 13 points in the 51-74 loss.
RESULTS FROM DAY 2
Bhiwani Club, Haryana (Himanshu Sharma 29, Pardeep Chauhan 22, Naveen 19) bt Ludhiana Basketball Academy (Arshpreet Singh Bhullar 30, Sukhdeep Pal Singh 14, Harmanpreet Singh 12) 94-72 (25-12, 23-24, 27-14, 19-22)
Indian Overseas Bank, Chennai (Abhilekh Paul 15, Pratham Singh 14, Vineeth Mathew 10, Jeevanantham 10) bt North Western Railway, Rajasthan (Prashant S 11, Bhanu Pratap S 10, Jainesh P 7) 70-47 (24-8, 24-9, 12-11, 10-19)
About the Federation Cup
The Shyama Prasad Mukherjee indoor stadium in the Goa University Campus is the venue for the 30th Federation Cup National Basketball Championship for Men and Women 2016. Matches will be played on a league cum knockout basis. There are nine men’s teams and eight women’s teams in the fray. Headlining the men’s teams will be defending champions ONGC, Uttarakhand and last year’s runners up Indian Overseas Bank (IOB), Chennai. Among women teams, Kerala, Chhattisgarh and Delhi will start off as hot contenders.
League matches will be played from 9th to 12th March, followed by the semifinals and finals on 13th and 14th respectively. In both the men’s and women’s sections, teams have been divided into two preliminary groups.The Federation Cup is held annually and is the most coveted tournament for basketball clubs/state teams throughout India.
Generally speaking, in the men’s section, the top 8 state teams from the previous year’s Senior National Championship send the Champion District/Unit/Club of the State Championship/Inter-district/Inter-Unit. In the women’s section, the top 8 state teams from the previous year’s Senior National Championship are eligible to participate, along with the Champion team of the Indian Railways Unit.
Another significance of the Federation Cup is that it serves as the qualifying tournament for the FIBA Asia Champions Cup for Men, which pits the top clubs in the continent against each other. The winning men’s team from the Federation Cup qualifies to the FIBA Asia Champions Cup.
Last year, the 29th Federation Cup National Basketball Championship for Men and Women was organized by Basketball Federation of India in association with Maharashtra State Basketball Association and Poona District Basketball Association, and was held at Shiv Chattrapathi Krida Sankul, Mhalunge, Balewadi, Pune, Maharashtra from 29th March to 2nd April 2015. ONGC, Uttarakhand and Southern Railway were crowned champions in the men’s and women’s divisions respectively.